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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Santa Clara University junior Laura Espinosa (Mountain View, Calif./Mountain View, HS) was named the Western Water Polo Association's Player of the Week on Wednesday.
Espinosa (pictured) had eight goals and 14 kick outs drawn in four games, helping Santa Clara go 3-1 and knock off No. 19 Pacific in double-overtime. Espinosa and the Broncos are preparing for three games at the 31st-annual Aggie Shootout hosted by No. 15 UC Davis this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, March 5-6.
"Laura holds position really well in front of the cage," said Santa Clara Head Coach Keith Wilbur. "She is extremely physical. Our half court offense runs through two-meters and she played big every game. We need her to establish position, to hold a side, and she was giving us good, hard work in there. That was big for us."
2011 31st-Annual Aggie Shootout
Dates: Saturday and Sunday, March 5-6, 2011
Host: UC Davis (Davis, Calif.)
Field (5 teams): Sonoma State (4-14; 0-5 WWPA), Santa Clara (7-9; 5-2 WWPA), No. 19 Pacific (8-5; 0-0 Big West), No. 15 UC Davis (5-5; 0-0 Big West), Cal State East Bay (8-6; 4-2 WWPA)
Details/Site: All games will be played at the Schaal Aquatics Center on the UC Davis Campus, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616
Saturday, March 5
No. 15 UC Davis vs. Sonoma State 10:30 a.m.
Santa Clara vs. No. 19 Pacific 11:45 a.m.
No. 15 UC Davis vs. Cal State East Bay 2:30 p.m.
Sonoma State vs. No. 19 Pacific 3:45 p.m.
Santa Clara vs. Cal State East Bay 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 6
No. 15 UC Davis vs. Santa Clara 9:30 a.m.
No. 15 UC Davis vs. No. 19 Pacific 1 p.m.
Santa Clara (7-9; 5-2 WWPA) also beat Western Water Polo Association rivals Cal State Monterey Bay and Sonoma State last weekend during SCU's Rodeo Tournament held at the Sullivan Aquatics Center. The challenge this week is to win away from home. The Broncos are 1-3 in true road games this season and 4-7 overall playing away from the Mission Campus.
"The teams we are playing this week are all teams we have played this season, and they are all good teams," said Wilbur. "UOP is going to be a battle right away. We've played twice and we beat them last time. That should be a huge game. Davis is a tough team to play, especially in their home environment."
The three teams Santa Clara will face this weekend are each ranked slightly ahead of the Broncos in the national polls. SCU began the season just outside of the Collegiate Water Polo Top 20. Wins this weekend could propel SCU back in to the rankings.
Santa Clara's freshmen class continues to make major contributions, led by Claire Eadington, who starred at Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach. Eadington is tied for the team-lead in goals (24) and ranks second in assists (18). Eadington scored the game-winner in overtime against No. 19 Pacific (8-5; 0-0 Big West) on Saturday.
"We put the ball in (Eadington's) hands against UOP in the final seconds and she came through," said Wilbur. "She is playing like someone who has been in college for two or three years. It is cool to see her getting that experience and having success so quickly."
The Broncos hope to push the tempo against Cal State East Bay (8-6; 4-2 WWPA), their opponent in Saturday's second game, starting at 6 p.m. A key to Santa Clara's counter-attack has been the play of Whitney Allen who is also a standout defensive player. Allen leads the team in steals with 22.
Sunday morning's game against No. 15 UC Davis (5-5; 0-0 Big West) may offer the toughest test of the weekend. The Aggies picked up wins over No. 18 UC San Diego and No. 13 Cal State Northridge last weekend in Irvine.